In January 2011, the MFA Program in Creative Writing brought essayist Rebecca Solnit to the University of Wyoming as an Eminent Writer in Residence. Solnit, who had just completed the innovative Infinite City atlas project in her home city of San Francisco, spent four weeks guiding an interdisciplinary group of UW students in the creation of a new atlas of Laramie and the region. Cartographers Ben Pease and Shiz Seigel were integral to the project, developing base maps and providing invaluable logistical and graphic design support. Sponsored by the MFA Program, the UW Art Museum, the Program in Environment/Natural Resources and the Social Justice Research Center, the atlas was displayed as a multi-media exhibition at the UW Art Museum from April 29-June 18, 2011. The atlas was later exhibited at UW’s Coe Library (August-September, 2011), the California Institute of Integrated Studies (December 8, 2011-January 29, 2012) and the Thoreau Center for Sustainability (April 26-June 8, 2012).
As Solnit noted in her artist’s statement for the initial exhibition, “Laramie is still the west, as a geographical location and a legacy, though that legacy is complicated. On some maps Laramie looks remote, but on our maps being remote merely means that a lot of what’s here has traveled a long distance. With the comings and goings of students and faculty, Native American citizens, Asian influences, the interstate highway, stray animals, the railroad that is the reason it was built, Laramie is a place of comings and goings, the here always in dialogue with there. After all, what we call a place is nothing more than a stable point of intersection among restless forces. And so these several versions of Laramie (and the essays that go with them) begin to tell us what Laramie is, this town of ghosts and taxidermy and ants and missile silos and goods and ideas and people from afar all converged.”